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Life sentence for 3-year-old's murder
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A Fort Stewart soldier was found guilty Wednesday of murder and aggravated battery in connection with the March 2011 death of 3-year-old Samuel Joseph Carroll.
According to the original police reports, Robert Gonzales was caring for the toddler Feb. 27, 2011, in his Honey Creek Lane home in Hinesville while the child’s mother, Jocelyn Collins Carroll, was at work.
Hinesville Police Department Det. Doug Snider reported that Gonzales took Samuel to Liberty Regional Medical Center that same evening and said the child had been injured at a playground.
Due to the nature of the injuries, hospital officials had the child transported to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, where he was placed on life support. Life support was discontinued March 3, 2011.
Gonzales was charged with one count of malice murder, one count of felony murder, three counts of cruelty to children in the first degree and one count of aggravated battery.
On Tuesday, a jury was selected, and Gonzales’ trial started in Liberty County Superior Court Judge David Cavendar’s courtroom.
A jury of six men, six women and two female alternates listened to testimony as Atlantic Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Melissa Poole presented the state’s evidence.
According to public records, several medical professionals representing LRMC and Memorial Health were called to testify on the state’s behalf. According to the initial police reports and public records, the child sustained blunt-force trauma to the head and body.
Those findings later were confirmed by an autopsy and presented at trial.
On Tuesday afternoon, the jury deliberated and found Gonzales not guilty of malice murder but guilty of felony murder. The jury also found him guilty of aggravated battery. The other charges were merged under the murder charge.
Cavendar sentenced Gonzales to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the murder charge, and 20 years for aggravated battery. The sentences will run consecutively.
The child’s mother was charged with one count of cruelty to children for reportedly knowing that Gonzales likely had been physically abusing her son yet still leaving the child in his care. She was arrested and charged in March 2011 and remained in Liberty County jail until she posted a $4,500 bond Dec. 23, 2011.
The trial transcripts had not been filed into public record by press time. It is unclear whether the child’s mother testified against Gonzales. Calls to the DA’s office were not returned by press time.

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